Above: The London Street Underpass with a stairway providing quick access to Crompton Avenue.
The public is invited to weigh in at a session on March 16
Years in the making and a priority of a couple past town councilors as well as this Town Council, a plan for potential improvements on the waterfront was unveiled for the councilors last week – a grab bag of big and small proposals, including a pavilion at Scalloptown Park, stairs for the London Street underpass, and better sidewalks and lighting throughout the area.
These are visions, Town Manager Andy Nota stressed. Nothing is fixed or decided. “These are ideas that the town can hope to incorporate in coming years,” he said.
BETA Engineering consultant Arek Galle set the stage for the study, noting that East Greenwich is nearly 17 square miles in area with the waterfront representing less than 1 square mile.
Because the EG waterfront area is small, figuring out how to make the most of it is important, Galle said.
There are only three access ways to the water – King Street and Rocky Hollow Road for cars and pedestrians, with the London Street underpass for pedestrians only. Many east-west streets ran all the way to the water well into the 20th century, but the arrival of high-speed trains brought grade crossings to an end, limiting access to the water.
Once at the water, Galle said, most pedestrians find they have to walk in the street at least some of the time. And getting close to the water isn’t always possible. Several of the town’s rights of way to the water have been obscured or offer no direct path.
Starting at the southern end of EG’s waterfront, Galle said Scalloptown Park could be improved while keeping within guidelines from the Dept. of Environmental Management for a capped landfill (yes, it served as the town’s landfill for about 60 years in the 1900s). Ideas include formalizing and shrinking the parking lot (right now there’s a lot of unused space in the middle), adding a pavilion, and adding a fenced area for dogs that would run parallel with the train tracks (a small dog park, if you will). (See graphics below.)
Moving north, the plan calls for making some improvements at the Rocky Hollow and Bridge Street rights of way and adding a stairway from Crompton Avenue down to the London Street underpass, with improved lighting, making that area a bit more inviting.
There are potentially big ideas for the town dock, transfer station and wastewater treatment plant area, including a multi-level parking structure, removal of the transfer station (perhaps with aspects of it moving elsewhere in town) and the addition of a walking path between the treatment plant and the water. Needless to say, some ideas are bigger and more expensive than others. Nothing at this point is set in stone. (See a graphic below.)
But Galle pointed out that with the town having relatively little waterfront, having the transfer station in such a prime location seemed like a waste. How about green space, instead, with more parking and perhaps places for kayaks and paddleboards? A parking structure could be built into the hillside there, allowing for more access to the waterfront.
The right of way at the Barbara Tufts Playground – the London Street ROW – could be improved as well. Right now it is fairly hidden and a bit treacherous.
The next right of way is at Long Street, on both sides of Water Street. The inland side is just a steep driveway but perhaps a stairway could be added for people coming from Rope Walk Hill (the neighborhood above). The water side of that right of way continues to be under discussion with the property owner of the parking lot because the actual right of way crosses part of the parking lot.
The only sidewalk in this section of Water Street is on the inland side. Could the town work with waterfront property owners to create a boardwalk in this area? That’s one idea.
At Water Street and King Street, Galle said, both drivers and pedestrians can get confused about who can go where. BETA proposes making crosswalks and adding a sidewalk in front of the old jail (again, through a public-private partnership). BETA also envisions a much more clear cut path for the King Street ROW, which exists between the jail building and the parking lot for the Water Street Grille. (See a graphic below.)
For the final stretch of Water Street, Galle said the plan recommended better sidewalks and a more accessible (i.e. with parking) right of way at Division Street.
The Town Council will decide whether or not to accept the report in coming weeks. Beyond that, it is one change at a time, most likely over many years.
You can find the full presentation here: East Greenwich Waterfront / BETA Briefing. The next public session is scheduled for March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Swift Community Center.